[@OKau] After the hackathon: 4 classic recipes

Cobi Alison Smith cobi.smith at unimelb.edu.au
Fri May 1 06:51:46 UTC 2015


I earn nothing working in/researching open technologies compared to when I worked as a management consultant (cue tiny violin) or even when I worked in a charity.

But seriously, it's not sustainable. I was funded (a "volunteer" allowance) through AusAID most of 2013; that opportunity literally doesn't exist now. Half of last year I was on EU research & tech dev funding... obviously can't do that from Australia. After my PhD I have no idea what happens.

It will be interesting if I have to decide between selling out (cue people like Steven rolling eyes, fair enough) or running away from Australia to live as a Buddhist nun. They're equally appealing at this point. Or move to another country again - brain drain - which is realistically most likely.

I've said this before but third time's the charm maybe... Rosie you should apply for a Shuttleworth Fellowship :)

From: okfn-au [okfn-au-bounces at lists.okfn.org] on behalf of Rosie Williams [budgetaus at hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, 1 May 2015 10:48 AM
To: okfn-au at lists.okfn.org
Subject: [@OKau] After the hackathon: 4 classic recipes

BudgetAus and the resulting input into budget transparency can be seen as an outcome of GovHack given that BudgetAus (as it was originally conceived and implemented) began by using the csv created during what I suspect was the original GovHack event. As a programming student I was seeking data with suitable copyright conditions for publication in my first database. That is how I happened across the concept of open data and came across the GovHack project created by theopenbudget.org.

In fact, that csv (containing data scraped from about half the federal portfolios) was my first ever look at a 'table' and from there I went on to create my own data set encompassing all portfolios and broken down to the finest grain to make the data searchable across all portfolios. At the time the existing app created during GovHack did not provide this. The team that did theopenbudget.org was then employed to create the CSV (according to BudgetAus specs) for last year's first ever publication of budget data in machine readable format.

The point of this all though in my mind, is the improvement to government accounting that has been put in motion as a result of these combined efforts:

- the first publication of budget data in usable formats including a machine readable version that made it possible to use the data in BudgetAus and other similar projects. Without the csv which contained all the data broken down to line item level, the data would only have been published in 173 separate excel files.
- the budget office has been asked to publish MYEFO data in usable formats and broken down along the same lines as the data published on budget night ie broken down to line item level so that it can be integrated with existing data
- submissions have also been sought from people such as myself working with budget data into the PMRA and Joint Committee of Public Accounts & Audit on specifications for the publication of financial reporting including annual reports due to networks built among people working outside government on budget data.

These are not insignificant outcomes, however I suspect they would never have come about had I not worked constantly and continually on budget transparency through BudgetAus since it's inception. I have done this to date without any financial support and under the most difficult of conditions which brings the topic back around to sustainability of open data projects and the need for incubators and other support. Had I been in the position of most other people with similar skills, I'd have obtained a professional position & decided I could not afford time to work on a 'volunteer' project. None of the existing or potential outcomes would have occurred. This irony is not lost on me.

While budget transparency (and the expertise in government spending that I gained) is invaluable to our democracy - which is why the project received both government & media support, this value is not easily monetised. I have recently reconceived BudgetAus to be a more marketable product with a defined target market using grants and tenders data rather than the 'top down' data published on budget night in recognition of this observation.

For open data projects to survive beyond the hackfest stage, there either needs to be sufficient market value to them to attract backing or sufficient public engagement to underpin ongoing funding, infrastructure and labour. Code for Australia and the Open Data Institute in QLD are presumably striving to fill the void in supporting/incubating emerging open data projects. The NSW State Library DX Lab (launching in a few months) also aims to nurture open data projects. I think that if we want quality, sustainable open data projects then we need to build an ecosystem where open data projects need not rely so heavily on the volunteer labour of coders.

Rosie Williams BA (Sociology)

 NoFibs.com.au<http://nofibs.com.au> - Open Data Reporter
 InfoAus.net<http://infoaus.net> - Founder and Developer

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